The Union health ministry on Sunday refuted reports that there has been a sudden increase in the number of tuberculosis cases among patients recovering from Covid-19 infection and also said there is not enough scientific evidence to link the two diseases.
Both the diseases are contagious and primarily attack the lungs, but it will not be right to link the two as yet, the government said.
Some news reports had claimed that doctors in Madhya Pradesh noticed a sudden rise in cases of Tuberculosis (TB) among patients who were infected with COVID-19 recently.
“It is clarified that Tuberculosis (TB) screening for all COVID-19 positive patients and COVID-19 screening for all diagnosed TB patients has been recommended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. States/UTs have been asked for convergence in efforts for better surveillance and case finding of TB and COVID-19, as early as August 2020,” the Health Ministry said in an official statement.
“Apart from this, multiple advisories and guidance have also been issued by the Health Ministry to reiterate the need for bi-directional screening of TB-COVID and TB-ILI/SARI. The States/ UTs have been implementing the same,” the statement explained.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 related restrictions, case notifications for TB had decreased by about 25% in 2020 but special efforts are being made to mitigate this impact through intensified case finding in OPD settings as well as through active case finding campaigns in the community by all States, the statement further explained.
Moreover, there is not enough evidence currently to suggest that there has been an increase in TB cases due to COVID-19 or due to increased case finding efforts.
The dual morbidity of Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 can be further highlighted through the facts that both the diseases are known to be infectious and primarily attack the lungs, presenting similar symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty in breathing, although TB has a longer incubation period and a slower onset of disease.
Furthermore, TB bacilli can be present in humans in a dormant state and has the potential to start multiplying when the individual’s immunity is compromised for any reason. The same is applicable in post COVID scenario, when an individual may develop decreased immunity due to the virus itself or due to the treatment, especially immune-suppressants like steroids. SARS-CoV-2 infection can make an individual more susceptible to developing active TB disease, as TB is an opportunistic infection like black fungus, the health ministry further explained.